The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I have every intention of talking about this movie in detail so if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read any more! If you have seen it or don’t care about spoilers then read on! Soooo….

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS EVERYWHERE

I went to see Desolation of Smaug this past Saturday (in 2D for this viewing) and I left the theater feeling deeply conflicted. And I think that one of my friends said it best: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is very entertaining fan fiction.

I wasn’t disappointed with the film; on the contrary, I think some things came out excellently. Also, I went in knowing that Peter Jackson likes to change things and An Unexpected Journey showed that he was going to be taking quite a few liberties with the story.

I’ll start with the good things first:

  • I loved Beorn. He’s one of my favorite Tolkien characters and I was worried about his part in this movie. He’s nothing like I expected or really imagined him to be but I think the film showed his strangeness and uniqueness perfectly. I also love that we’re getting to see more of Middle-earth than the hobbits, elves, dwarves, and men. The main problem? The scene’s too short. Something tells me we’ll see him again in the next film.Beorn
  • Thranduil. Lee Pace. We tend to forget that the elves are…not like us. We’ve been used to Legolas in LotR as primarily a warrior and bits from Elrond and Galadriel showing us how wise they are. But the Mirkwood elves are different, even from their Elven kin. They’re not as wise and they’re much earthier than their ethereal cousins.  And Thranduil is WEIRD. He doesn’t really leave his palace. He doesn’t want to leave. He looks weird (is he not blinking?). He acts weird. But he’s also completely faaaabulous. (Seriously, his entrance? Total fan girl service.) And can I please, pretty please, go live with the Mirkwood elves? That place is gorgeous.Thranduil
  • Smaug. He is truly magnificent. Part of me is glad that they expanded his scenes so much because he is the true antagonist of this movie and since they clearly worked so hard on him and created such a perfect dragon, to have him disappear after just a short dialogue with Bilbo would have been a shame. Smaug

As these were the things that I was looking forward to most in this movie I’m pleased they came out well.  But Peter Jackson can’t seem to understand that The Hobbit is not Lord of the Rings, even though he really, really wants it to be. The Hobbit just can’t support the epic story line of something like LotR and that’s why we have the additions of the Azog story line, Tauriel and the whole White Council/Necromancer subplot. And this is where the conflict comes in for me.

I have no real problems with these additions. Film and books are two separate mediums and however much Tolkien fans might want Tolkien’s words translated directly on the screen, that probably would not make a very good movie. So I’m ok with the Necromancer plot- it’s a connecting bridge to the LotR movies, besides showing some background on Sauron, and Jackson knows he’ll probably never be going back to Middle-earth. Do what he can when he can, I guess. I also don’t have a problem with Tauriel, either in theory or in the actual movie (although the Tauriel/Kili romance is a bit awkward and I have a horrible feeling that she’s either going to die in battle in the next film with Kili or she’ll be so devastated by the outcome of the battle that she leaves Middle-earth) but just so everyone knows, I have no problem with a male only cast. Please don’t feel you need to appease women in general or feminists specifically by creating female characters.

I do, however, have a problem with the tone of this movie and it is far more pronounced in this chapter of the trilogy than the previous one. It’s why, instead of a barrel escape from the Hall of the Elven King, we get a fight scene in open barrels with elves and orcs in close pursuit. It’s why, instead of a rather dignified battle of words between Bilbo and Smaug, we have another fight scene where the dwarves try to destroy Smaug. And while it’s all incredibly entertaining and an amazing spectacle, it’s not really The Hobbit. We’ve lost the innocent wonder and the charming humor of an out of place hobbit dragged along on an adventure he never wanted, to a world he never knew existed.

So far, I’ve only watched the movie once. I’ll probably watch it at least once more (3D this time perhaps?) and maybe my opinion of the movie will change. I can’t claim to have ever been a huge fan of the book but it is a shame that the best adaptation we are likely to get on film has to be so far removed from the original source material.

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Have a Very Merry (Tolkien) Christmas

Father Christmas

Father Christmas

We are now solidly in the Advent season, a time of joy and celebration for the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! If you’re looking for some lovely carols to listen to, Jubilare is doing a series this month with some of her favorites. Start here!

I’ve had very few in my lifetime but I have always been enthralled by Advent calendars, even the cheap cardboard ones with the poor quality foil-wrapped chocolate pieces inside. The joy of looking forward to a new gift each day while getting closer and closer to Christmas? You would have to be a pre-reformed Scrooge not to love that!

Bah. Humbug.

Bah. Humbug.

But, alas, most Advent calenders are expressly made for children (unless you’re buying the Starbucks one, (maybe check your local store?) which I strongly suggest you keep far, far away from children). Do not despair though, dear reader! For I come to you today with a calender for Tolkien fans. Simply go here to sign up and begin your first clue: tolkienchristmas.com. In theory, this advent calender is meant as a contest to win some personalized Tolkien books. But the real joy here is that every day you answer a simple question with a link to a special Tolkien related item. Perhaps an illustration, or a map, or, like today, a link to a rare recording of Tolkien reading a chapter from The Hobbit (“Riddles in the Dark”!). You might want to save each link as you get them, as it seems very hard to find them again once you have answered the question or closed the page. Have no fear, though! With my internet prowess, I have managed to bring you the links to each previous day!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16

Day 17

Day 18

Day 19

Day 20 (Final day!)

I will try to keep these updated as the month progresses; it would be a shame to lose these treasures.

Also in Tolkien news: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug opens on Friday! I haven’t read any full reviews yet but the general consensus seems to be that it is good and better than the first one. However, as one fan pointed out, so was Attack of the Clones.

Another Liebster Award!

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award again! And as this just means I get to answer another round of fun questions I will accept wholeheartedly.

Nominated this time by the lovely ladies at the Egotist’s Club.

Without further ado, the questions and my answers:

1) What leader (from history or fiction) would you follow into the very jaws of death? Why?

Well, Faramir from Lord of the Rings, obviously. Wise and gentle, yet strong and courageous. Even Eowyn, a shieldmaiden of Rohan, recognizes his value and that he would be unmatched by any of the Rohirrim (who are essentially idealized Vikings of the plains).

Also, Croaker from The Black Company series by Glen Cook. Croaker starts out as the company doctor and over the several decades covered by the series ends up as the Commander. He’s intelligent, cynical, gruff when needed and kind when needed. He does not make the men under him do anything that he would not or has not done himself. And if you have to enter into a life or death situation, I would rather have someone leading me that understands sacrifice.

2) Would you rather be an old-fashioned bard wandering around and telling stories, or a modern-day writer? Why?

Old-fashioned bard, absolutely.  Bards knew all the stories and were generally given positions of honor in the house they were visiting because they were one of the few entertainments available in a time before modern technology. And I don’t just mean the internet and tv but even readily accessible books. Granted, the freedom and prestige of a position was restricted a bit by having to rely entirely on wealthy patrons but it has a romance to it that I just can’t shake.

3) What musical instrument best communicates your personality? How or why?

I guess I would have to go with a fiddle on this one. I might seem a bit like the coldly formal violin when you first meet me, but get to know me and I’ll loosen right up.

4) If you had a hedgehog, what would you name it, and why?

(I happen to live in one of the few states that does not allow hedgehogs. This is an absolute travesty.)

I would probably name it the horribly and embarrassingly un-clever “Hedgie”. I had a book growing up called Miss Jaster’s Garden about a hedgehog (simply called Hedgie) and his human friend (Miss Jaster) that lived near the sea. I had no idea what a hedgehog was at the time but the book still holds a special place in my heart. But I might name it something else. Pet names have generally been spur of the moment decisions for me based on either characteristics of the pet (hence, a cat named Fluffy- I swear she was part Persian) or names that I happened to like at the moment of naming (hence, another cat named Simon, who narrowly avoided the name of Wildthing).

5) If you could tell high school students one thing that would influence them for the rest of their lives, what would it be and why?

That the past four years don’t matter. I know that sounds horrible, and it’s not even entirely true, but high school is such a time of drama and petty tragedies that we place far too much emphasis on. The things learned in high school may or may not come in handy, and any character building will stay you forever but I’m about 10 years on from high school and you know what? Nobody really cares about that part of my life. It doesn’t come up in jobs, new friends don’t usually ask any details about it, and I myself rarely think of it.

I also think that the recent rise of YA fiction as a literary powerhouse has contributed (dangerously) to the idea that life in high school is the Most. Important. Thing. EVER. I respectfully disagree.

6) What is the very first book you would read aloud to your baby, and why?

To my baby? Honestly, it will probably be something along the lines of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See or maybe Goodnight Moon. Something simple with appealing pictures. Once they get to toddler-ish age I’d start reading them the same collection of Richard Scarry stories that I learned to read from. And once they get even older, Narnia. Definitely Narnia. I will always regret that I tried to read the Narnia books too old and could not enjoy them- they seemed too simple and a tad patronizing. It wasn’t until I was an adult and could understand the Christian story behind them that I grew to love them.

7) What are your thoughts on Disney acquiring Star Wars?

The emotional equivalent of a wavy line. I’m not indifferent but I’m withholding judgment until the new movies come out. Disney might be able to curb George Lucas’ attempts to “fix” things unnecessarily but I’m terrified Leia is going to end up as a Disney Princess.

8) What qualities of leadership do you possess?

I’ve never considered myself a leader. As an introvert, I’ve always tended to be a bit of a loner and very much an observer. So if a leader is doing the right thing and deserves to be followed? Great, count me in. But I like to flatter myself that I have never done anything simply because it was what everyone else was doing. That being said, I have been described as being a servant leader so I suppose I am good at seeing something that needs to be done and doing it. Generally in the background. Let someone else deal with the spotlight!

So there we go. And now dear reader, I would love to hear your responses to one or all of these questions.